Back in the early 2000s, a group called the World Hunting Association (WHA) launched with a mission that promised “to take hunting to a new level by creating a competitive tour that showcases the sport’s finest hunters competing for hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money.” For the first event, 5 celebrity hunters were to be turned loose in a 1,200-acre pen with bow or gun to see who could shoot the biggest buck with, I kid you not, “patent-pending, non-fatal tranquilizing technique that will allow for a thrilling tournament experience.” A PR guy from WHA emailed me and wrote: “It’s both a bow and gun hunt, but with a patented tranq technology. There are veterinarians on site to care for the animals immediately following the shot.”
As the WHA was getting rolling, a TV network and producer I was working with at the time came up with the brilliant idea of the Whitetail Challenge. Four hunters, including me if I was so inclined, would go to some high-fence ranch somewhere and see who could slay the biggest buck with sponsors’ rifle, scope and bullet.
Those are 2 of the more egregious examples of how people have tried to turn our wonderful deer hunting into a money-making competition over the years. But the hunting and killing of deer is not a game, far from it, and I went on a mission to prove it.
I am proud to say I blogged relentlessly against the now-defunct WHA and its ridiculous deer-darting scheme in Outdoor Life and other magazines. I was able to mobilize hundreds of thousands of real hunters against the competition. I got top hunting organizations and state wildlife agencies involved, most of which ultimately found that shooting deer with tranquilizer guns and darts was not only unethical but illegal in many places. In a matter of months, the WHA folded.
I was just as proud not to accept a role in the Whitetail Challenge. They did air one very forgettable TV episode. Real hunters who watched raised hell; the show bombed and was quickly cancelled.
The idea of deer-hunting competitions for big money profit was a short-lived fad that never got off the ground, and I am proud I did my part to quash it.